LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The No. 4 regionally-seeded Ohio baseball team (31-28) saw its season come to an end with an 11-2 loss to No. 2 regionally-seeded Indiana (34-23-2) in a 2017 NCAA Championship Lexington Regional elimination game on Saturday (June 3) at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
"First off, I would just like to congratulate Indiana on a great game," said fifth-year head coach Rob Smith. "Secondly, congratulate my team on a tremendous season. What they were able to accomplish this year given where we were at one point in the year is truly amazing. We had tremendous leadership throughout the course of the year, and the energy our guys played with, especially in the second half of the season, was really special to be a part of. I'm incredibly proud to be their coach."
The Bobcats opened the regional with a 6-4 defeat at the hands of No. 1 regionally-seeded Kentucky (40-20) on Friday (June 2). The Hoosiers bounced back from a 7-6 loss in 12 innings to No. 3 regionally-seeded North Carolina State (35-23) on Friday night. The Wildcats and the Wolfpack will square off at 7:04 p.m. ET on Saturday in a winner's bracket matchup. Indiana will play the loser of the winner's bracket game on Sunday (June 4) at 1:04 p.m. ET. The winner of that contest will play the winner of Saturday night's game at 7:04 p.m. ET on Sunday for the regional title. If necessary, a winner-take-all second regional title game will be played on Monday (June 5) at 7:04 p.m. ET.
Ohio jumped out to an early lead but was unable to overcome four home runs by Indiana -- including three by junior right fielder Logan Sowers.
Ohio got off to a strong start. Redshirt junior left-handed starting pitcher Gerry Salisbury (Brunswick, Ohio) retired Indiana in order in the top of the first to set the tone early. The Bobcats' bats picked up where he left off in the home half. Senior right fielder Spencer Ibarra (Fort Collins, Colo.) led off with a single up the middle for the game's first hit. Senior second baseman Ty Black(Waynesville, Ohio) followed with a base hit to left center, then sophomore first baseman Rudy Rott (Holmen, Wis.) drew a walk to load the bases for Ohio. Redshirt junior designated hitter Michael Klein (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) drew a walk to push across Ibarra for the game's first run, then senior third baseman Connor Callery (Covington, Ky.) served up a sacrifice fly to left that allowed Black to tag up from third and score.
The Hoosiers cut into Ohio's lead in the second with a one-out solo home run to right field by Sowers.
Indiana grabbed control of the contest with a three-run fourth, giving the Hoosiers a 4-2 lead over the Bobcats. Senior center fielder Craig Dedelow led off the bottom of the frame with a home run to right. Sowers followed with a single through the left side, then freshman left fielder Matt Gorski drew a walk. After senior first baseman Austin Cangelosi moved them into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt, freshman catcher Jake Matheny delivered a two-run base hit through the left side that scored both Sowers and Gorski.
The Hoosiers kept adding on with runs in the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth innings. Dedelow was hit by a pitch to lead off the bottom of the fifth and scored one out later on a double to left center by Gorski. In the sixth, senior second baseman Tony Butler hit a one-out single to left center and scored one out later on an Ohio error. Sowers gave Indiana a five-run lead in the seventh when he led off with a homer to right center. Indiana sealed its victory with a four-run top of the eighth. Butler hit a one-out single up the middle, stole second, then scored one out later on a single through the left side by sophomore third baseman Luke Miller. After Miller stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch and Dedelow drew a walk, Sowers hit a three-run home run to left -- his third of the game and 12th of the season.
Sophomore right-handed pitcher Jonathan Stiever shook off a tough first inning to give Indiana a complete-game effort on the mound. After walking three in the opening frame, Stiever allowed just two earned runs on seven hits and three walks. He struck out four en route to improving to 4-4 on the year.
Sowers powered the Hoosiers' attack with a 4-for-5 effort that included three home runs, five RBIs and four runs scored. Butler finished 3-for-6 with a double and two runs scored. Gorski went 2-for-4 with a double, a walk, an RBI and a run scored.
"Coming off yesterday's game, the biggest thing I wanted to see us do today was throw it over the plate and make Indiana beat us," said Smith "We only had three walks today. They hit the four homers. They swung the bat well. We forced them to have to earn what they got. You have to tip your hat to them. Our guys threw it over the plate. They executed pitches. Those guys hit fastballs off the plate. They hit 3-2 breaking balls. When we tried to go in, they were able to get their hands inside of it and pull it. Their hitters did a tremendous job. Our guys did what I asked them to do, which was attack the zone and make them swing the bat. Indiana won the battle today."
Salisbury suffered the loss on the mound for Ohio, falling to 4-4 on the year. He struck out four but gave up four earned runs on seven hits and two walks in 3.2 frames. Senior right-handers Tom Colletti (Wheaton, Ill.) and Jake Rudnicki (Toledo, Ohio) and southpaw Matt Mikolajczak (New Lenox, Ill.) made their final appearances for the Bobcats.
Rott went 2-for-3 with a walk for Ohio at the plate, marking his 21st game with multiple hits, which ranks second on the team.
In his final game as a Bobcat, Black finished 2-for-4 with a run scored, marking the 35th-straight game he has reached base -- a team season high. He recorded 19 multi-hit efforts this year -- tied for third-most on the team.
Ibarra, Callery, senior catcher Anthony Mrosla (Coon Rapids, Minn.), senior pinch hitter Mateus Vakuda (Sao Paulo, Brazil) and senior shortstop Tyler Finkler (Olmsted Falls, Ohio) also played in their final game for Ohio.
"Being a transfer from junior college, you kind of come in and you don't know what's going to happen or how the guys are going to act," said Ibarra, who transferred to Ohio as a junior from Neosho County Community College. "Coming in with this group of seniors, they took me right in. They treated me like I had been there for four years. I wouldn't have asked for a better group of guys to finish my college career out, and I just wish the best for all of them. They fight every day, and they work hard, and they never give up, and I'm so grateful I had the chance to play with those guys,."
The Bobcats finished 2017 with 31 wins -- including 11 in Mid-American Conference play, which placed Ohio fifth in the overall league standings. Under the direction of Smith, No. 5-seeded Ohio capped an improbable league postseason run by defeating No. 3-seeded Eastern Michigan, 7-4, to clinch the 2017 MAC Championship title last Sunday (May 28) at Sprenger Stadium in Avon, Ohio. Ohio earned its third MAC tournament title (1997, 2015, '17) with the victory. The Bobcats have won eight-straight MAC tournament games dating back to its 4-0 championship run in 2015. Ohio opened 2017 MAC Championship play by beating No. 4-seeded Ball State, 4-3, last Wednesday (May 24). The Bobcats then advanced to the winner's bracket final thanks to a late-night 5-3 win over No. 1-seeded Kent State last Thursday (May 25). Ohio eliminated the Golden Flashes with a 7-2 victory last Saturday (May 27), marking the fourth time in five tries the Bobcats emerged victorious over the MAC regular season champion Golden Flashes in 2017. After missing the national postseason tournament 17 years in a row, Ohio punched its second NCAA Regional ticket in the last three years as the MAC's automatic bid.
"Coming in, me being a four-year starter, this class when we were 16, 17, 18 years old being recruited, Coach Smith had a vision for us; told us that if we came together and stayed together that we could win multiple championships," said Black. "To watch that unfold over four years now was something we'll look back on, and we'll know something that we did was really special."
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